Hillary Clinton has long had the problem—real or perceived—that much of what she says seems scripted, the words of a calculating politician, not an ordinary person.
Finally, though, she’s thawing—and she has Donald Trump to thank for it. The Hillary Clinton who railed against her Republican rival’s economic policies in Columbus, Ohio, today was the warmer, wryer one that emerged in her recent speech on foreign policy. She seemed to relish trashing Trump’s business record, particularly his businesses’ proclivity for seeking bankruptcy protection.
Hillary seems to be homing in on an eloquent attack on Trump: his marketing-heavy, details-light approach to wooing American voters looks a lot like the repeated exploitation of his business partners.
While Clinton clearly enjoyed herself lampooning Trump’s hypocrisy on trade and refusal to release his federal tax returns, her most powerful point was her attack of his business record—exactly what Trump argues qualifies him to be president.
His casinos have filed for bankruptcy more often than any other major company in the last 30 years, she said, after ripping into his habit of borrowing heavily and then defaulting.
Trump has also been involved in 3,500 lawsuits, she said, many of them filed by workers and small businesses claiming Trump had stiffed them on payment. (Clinton herself has been named in more than 900 lawsuits; more than one-third are suits from prisoners or political activists filed against high-profile officials, reports USA Today.) His Atlantic City casino deals made him money (paywall) even though their eventual failure stuck his investors with the losses.
“This is his one move,” said Clinton. “He makes over-the-top promises that if people stick with him, trust him, listen to him, put their faith in him he’ll deliver for them—he’ll make them wildly successful. And then everything falls apart and people get hurt.”
Trump has now taken his pattern of overpromising and underdelivering on the campaign trail, she said.
“Those promises you’re hearing from him at his campaign rallies—they are the same promises he made to his customers at Trump University and now they’re suing him for fraud,” said Clinton. “The same people he’s trying to get to vote for him are people he’s been exploiting for years.”
Thanks to his knack for grabbing headlines throughout the primaries, Trump’s checkered business record and its impact on taxpayers hasn’t seemed to penetrate the public’s awareness. At the five Trump rallies I’ve reported from, only one person I spoke with was aware of his bankruptcies; many cited his business acumen as the reason for their support.
However, these aren’t the voters Trump must now sell himself to. If she keeps at it, Clinton might just get a chance to define the Trump brand before he does.